Torch Lake From the Air

Eagle’s View

The view flying over US 31 north of Elk Rapids is amazing!

To the west lies Grand Traverse Bay in Lake Michigan. The Grand Traverse Bay Watershed covers a large area — 500 square miles. A portion of the watershed includes the Elk River Chain-of-Lakes Watershed. which supplies 60% of the surface water flowing into Grand Traverse Bay. East of Lake Michigan, lies the smaller Torch Lake Watershed.

At several places there is less than a mile between the Torch Lake and Lake Michigan. In ancient times this the narrow strip of land between these two bodies of water was an island, but sand has filled in and blocked off the surface flow of water.

The Torch Lake Watershed is located in the middle of the Chain-of-Lakes Watershed:

Upper Chain: Headwaters begin in the Hitchcock Swamp, Beals Lake, Scott’s Lake, Six Mile Lake, St. Clair Lake, Ellsworth Lake, Wilson Lake, Benway Lake, Hanley Lake, Intermediate Lake, Intermediate River

Middle Chain: Lake Bellaire, Grass River, Clam Lake, Clam River, Torch Lake

Lower Chain: Torch River, Lake Skegemog, Elk Lake, Elk River- mouth

The Torch Lake Watershed is small in area… only 76 square miles.

Compared to the other watersheds:

  • Lake Michigan Watershed – 22,300 square miles
  • Grand Traverse Bay Watershed – 500 square miles
  • Houghton Lake Watershed – 712 square miles (Michigan’s largest inland lake when ranked by surface area)

Our watershed has more land than water:

  • 62% land (47 square miles)
  • 38% water (29 square miles)
  • Our watershed holds almost 1/3 of the water stored in all of Michigan’s inland lakes.

Our watershed stores water in many places:

  • Wetlands
  • Lakes: Torch Lake, Thayer Lake
  • Rivers: Clam River flows west into Torch Lake, Torch River flows south out of Torch Lake
  • Streams:
    • A–Ga–Ming Creek
    • Eastport Creek
    • Wilkinson Creek
    • Meggison Creek
    • Bonny Brook
    • Spencer Creek
    • More than 40 other unnamed creeks

Photo: Elly Johnson

From my point of view, it should be easy to protect magnificent Torch lake, because it is surrounded by just 47 square miles of land.
Only 5 acres in the Torch Lake Watershed have been protected through land conservation.

Torch Lake Changes

Visit the TRUE BLUE Gallery

Torch Conservation Center exterior

Tue-Sat 11am-5 pm
Thur  11am-7pm

9046B Helena St.
Alden, Michigan 49612

Don't just wish that Torch Lake will stay blue.
Choose a water-friendly lifestyle - make a difference!